Monday, March 13, 2006

Beautiful People 9 - yeesh- and Spumco's business acumen

Hey, while you are figuring out who these beauties are, let me ask you something. My pal Eddie once wrote up a list of all the innovations that were introduced by Spumco that the rest of the cartoon business just takes for granted now.

It's a pretty long list. In fact there are quite a few inventions and concepts we started that haven't even been picked up yet. The whole business according to Eddie is still trying to catch up on about 10% of the first slew of gifts.

Now I know this is bound to agitate the Spumco bashers out there and will sound like bragging, but I kinda don't give a crap. I figure I better put it down just for the sake of history, since the whole cartoon business made a pile of money from us with no thought of ever paying us back.

Basically, for the last 15 years, Spumco has been the research and development department for the rest of 2D animation. Usually studios pay for this department, but since Spumco was an independant studio, everyone else just waited for all the inventions and the training of new artists and snapped 'em up as greedily as they could. Spumco has only ever been paid for basic production, not for training artists, not for developing markets and technologies and not for developing new shows-(all this is usually covered under "overhead" at major studios), but I have always had to use my own money (and my producers') to push history forward. Nevertheless, Spumco is responsible for the 3 biggest business, marketing and technological innovations in the last 15 years and everyone else has benefitted greatly.

The 3 most general changes in animation were 3 new markets that generated billions of dollars for the industry:
1) Cable TV cartoons: Before Ren and Stimpy, kid cartoons were relegated to major networks' Saturday Morning cartoons. Ren and Stimpy came along and was the most popular TV show ever created for cable for 10 years (until Sponge Bob, a descendant of R and S) and it sold 600 million dollars of merchandise in the first 2 years. This success brought Nickelodeon into millions of new homes and gave The Cartoon Network confidence that it too could maybe compete against the established Network giants.
Nickelodeon then adopted (a nice way to put it) my studio system that was completely different than the Saturday morning cartoon system and stocked their new studio with my trainees. (And spent about 10 times more just trying to imitate us than what they ever spent on the ones who created all the new ideas).

Within about 4 years after Ren and Stimpy hit, Saturday Morning cartoons were crippled and ever since, cable cartoons have been on top.

2) Short cartoons on TV: When Fred Seibert took over Hanna Barbera in the early 1990s he hired me as a consultant and asked me why old cartoons were great and new ones sucked. In a nutshell, I gave him a history lesson, explaining that old cartoons used a director and unit system rather than the established Hanna Barbera assembly line system, and that they constantly created new characters that appeared in shorts, rather than banking on 13 half hours of Saturday Morning cartoons that might die if the audience didn't like a new character. I also told him not to use "writers" or scripts; that the old cartoons-including Disney's were all written by artists with drawings on storyboards.

Fred started the first shorts program for the Cartoon Network-I helped him pick directors and voted on the best shorts which led to Cow and Chicken, Dexter's Lab and Powerpuff Girls, thus making Cartoon Network the second most powerful kids network and in turn caused every other studio to start their own shorts programs, each new one getting further away from what the purpose was of doing shorts in the first place.

3) Flash and Internet Cartoons: In 1996 I was so frustrated with how ungrateful and slow moving the TV cartoon business was, that I was looking for a new medium and had recently discovered the WWW.
I instantly saw the potential of reaching audiences directly and for less money than you would need to pay to keep a network filled with highly paid pests who hated creativity.
I needed a program that would allow me to make cartoons for the internet. Within a few months of my brainstorm, in walked Annmarie Ashkar, a big Spumco fan who wanted to work for me. She told me about a primitive new program called Flash that some websites were using to make banner ads and simple games. We both agreed that maybe we could force it make cartoons, so we made the very first Internet cartoon called The Goddamn George Liquor Program.

Now at the time everyone thought I had lost my mind (as they do each time I find a new way to make them rich). They told me to drop this crazy notion of Internet cartoons and get back to TV. Even my own staff was mad at me.

So I spent my own money developing the techniques to make this program work for animation, put the first Internet cartoons up, called Macromedia and showed them what I was doing, worked with their programmers and suggested many improvements for the program. I also called all the magazines and Newspapers and marketed the whole deal myself. I got on the cover of Wired and many other magazines and the news spread like wildfire.

Soon, everyone and his dog started up their own Flash websites and copied what we were doing. Icebox, one of our followers, then saw another cartoon I had started called Weekend Pussy Hunt and paid for part of it. I trained about 40 artists to use Flash with the techniques Annmarie and I developed and now they are all the top Flash people in TV.

OK, this folly of mine has now been copied by every network that won't buy Spumco cartoons and I have generated Hundreds of millions of dollars of business again.

These 3 major innovations are merely business innovations, they don't even begin to count the tons of creative innovations that Spumco either started or reintroduced from classic cartoons.


That's just a start folks. Want more?
On a lighter note, watch the world's sexiest man eat a hot dog: